After Harper’s monster season, in which he hit 42 home runs and compiled a 1.109 OPS, speculation percolated about the kind of deal he could get in free agency after the 2018 season. Part of that speculation naturally centered around whether or not the Nationals might try to extend his contract first.
“Talks are talks and negotiations are negotiations,” Rizzo said. “We have not been negotiating. We have dialogue like we have with everybody.”
Because of Harper’s age (he will be 26 when his contract expires), talent (he was labeled the next big thing as a teenager) and marketability (endorsement deals with Under Armour, Gatorade and others), some wonder whether Harper may be able to secure $400 or $500 million on a free agent deal — if not more.
“I mean, I’ve got three years to play. I’ve got three years to do everything I can to play this game,” Harper said when he addressed the media earlier this week. “The $400 (million) or whatever everybody was talking about, money, you can’t put a limit on players. You can’t put a limit on what they do.”
Rizzo said he would not be opposed to negotiating an extension during the season, since such talks are usually between him and an agent anyway, and therefore wouldn’t directly affect the player. Asked if he expects to pursue Harper if he hits free agency, despite what looks like it will be an unprecedented financial commitment, Rizzo said he does.
“We’ve signed some guys to big contracts. We’re market value. We do market value deals,” said Rizzo, who had to incorporate deferred money into what were otherwise competitive offers for Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward and others this offseason. “It’s gotta be part of the grand plan. We always have one-, three- and five-year plans. This would be part of our long-term payroll strategy.”